By: Doran Grieshaber, Sports Writer
When free agent centerfielder Dexter Fowler was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason, it was expected that he would improve the outfield defense and be a good bat at the top of the lineup. However, it appears that Fowler is already bringing another positive to the ballclub with his energy. The Cardinals have revamped their Spring Training routine with some help from Fowler, and it could be the change that the club needed to reclaim their spot as a contender.
While the Cardinals finished in second place in the National League Central division last year, they finished a whopping 17.5 games back behind the Chicago Cubs and missed out on a Wild Card spot as well. It is no secret that the Cardinals struggled last season, but the reason could be different than previously thought. While the Cardinals had their fair share of injuries to important players throughout the season and also dealt with pitching struggles, team chemistry could have been a bigger factor than initially thought.
Although the Cardinals are a historically business-first team, they are changing things up to have a more relaxed atmosphere. Dexter has personally helped with this by implementing music into the Spring Training workout routine. Each day a different player has gotten to choose the music, and it has gone over very well with the team. The team believes the laid-back atmosphere could help the players come together more, as Fowler said last year’s World Series winning Cubs always had fun, even after a loss. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty described last year’s team as “tough and rigid”. Adam Wainwright also got the team to visit an escape room in West Palm Beach, and manager Mike Matheny had the groups broken up to have people work together that may normally not be interacting. The skill is certainly there with this team, now Matheny and Mozeliak are hoping the group can mesh together.
While the serious and professional style of play of veterans such as Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, and Chris Carpenter may not be as tightly followed, it may not be a bad thing. The relaxed and fun atmosphere could allow the young players such as Kolten Wong, Aledmys Diaz, and the rest of the up and coming Cardinals to be themselves and come into their own. The Cardinals current roster is poised to be a playoff contender once again, the team’s chemistry could be the difference between being one-and-done and having a real shot at the World Series. While Saint Louis faces one of the toughest routes to the World Series, sharing a division with the Cubs and Pirates, this is an organization with a history of accomplishing the improbable.